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Three new reviews up this week on Cleaver’s Reviews page. Read the full reviews on Cleaver.

The Raven Girl

Reviewer Amy Victoria Blakemore writes of Audrey Niffenegger’s eponymous heroine, who is neither “female” or “girl”, but hybrid:

“The narrator does not question: how can a raven and a human create a child? Is this our world or a different one completely? There is a no rabbit hole that we have to fall down to justify the strangeness of this world. Whoever writes to us in these uncomplicated (and often cheeky) letters does not waste any time holding our hand, guiding us through the rules and regulations of the moment. We just have to follow; we have to suspend belief for eighty pages. In this way, reading Raven Girl is a lot like falling in love: for a brief moment, we are compelled to forget our skepticism.”

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Carnival

Reviewer Nathaniel Popkin writes intelligently of the pleasures and perplexities reading Rawi Hage’s fabulist novel, which brings to mind Calvino and Bolaño:

“Hage, who was born in Lebanon and lives in Montreal, is profoundly interested in the global forces that bear down on society; his book attempts to take account of the impact on people of migration, racism, and global capitalism. It consistently sides with the losers, even when they commit horrendous crimes. But Hage makes a mistake, it seems to me, in devising an escapist narrative to confront the dysfunction that’s only grounded in an imaginary city (if it’s Montreal, I don’t quite recognize it) during the bloated week of carnival.”

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He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs

Brandon Lafving pits Leonard Gontarek against his frustrated memories of reading John Ashberry in his review of Gontarek’s latest book of poetry:

“At precisely the point where we might expect to be left stranded in an Ashbery poem, Gontarek persists. There is true conceit here, exploring and instructing through symbolic language….The effect is… different. Knowing that there is something being said means we need to ante up some mental effort. The Philadelphia Inquirer called Gontarek a “Poet’s poet…” probably because of the reading level. Anyone can read Ashbery because no one comprehends it. Almost no one could understand Gontarek because the reader is given some extremely heavy objects to lift. But those who can will harbor feelings similar to a difficult class – hateful in the experience and grateful forever after.”